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My Apartment Complex Took My Check But Never Cashed It

Written by Steve Rhode

Question:

Dear Steve,

When we moved out we gave the apartment our new address and asked them to send the final bill because they did not have it available. This was in January 2015. I tried calling a handful of times and couldn’t reach the apartment complex.

In May, we had not received a bill yet so on a trip back to where we previously lived (we had moved 4+hrs away), my husband stopped by the office in person to ask for a final bill. They gave us one, he paid it by check, and they scanned the check taped to a sheet with “paid” and “received by _____”.

They then scanned the check and sent it to us through their company email. At some point between when we left the apartment and now, the property was sold.

One of the property companies sent us to collection saying we never paid the final bill. Now I have a debt collector calling and saying we owe them the money. We forwarded the email from the property company (had the attachment with the check and ‘receipt’) to show proof of payment. While checking our bank account we found the apartment never cashed the check.

Do I have to provide a cancelled check or bank draft showing the bill was paid or is the receipt enough?

My apartment provided me a receipt, however they never cashed the check. They probably lost it – but instead of calling me to ask about the payment they just sent it to collections.

Am I obligated to pay even through I can show they received a check from me? Since the check wasn’t cashed, if I still have to pay , can I pay the apartment directly or do I have to pay the debt collector?

Casey

Answer:

Dear Casey,

Well it appears we have two issues here. The first is the receipt of the payment, which thankfully you have proof. The second issue is the actual payment.

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You’ve confirmed they generated a receipt and that they were actually never paid with funds from your account.

In a perfect world you would need to provide them with the funds they never received and they should backdate the payment to the date on the receipt since they lost the check. Once that is done they may agree to remove any notation from your credit report that you were reported in collections for this account. You could also ask that the collector/company allow you to deduct the cost of a stop payment on the original check if your bank says it is still cashable.

I’d make a friend of the debt collector and enlist their help to unwind this clerical and financial error.

And while I’d love to say this is a unilateral error, you do have a responsibility to balance your checkbook and make sure there are no outstanding checks. It seems that might have slipped through a very busy crack on your side.

If you wanted some additional support on this you could hire a local attorney who is licensed in your state to represent you in this matter. But the best outcome is the strategy I laid out above: you provide payment and they unwind the clock to post the payment as of the date of the receipt.

In a way this is like a bounced check situation. They payment was received but was not made good. You just need to make the payment good and confirm the receipt of funds from your bank. The ultimate reality here is the apartment complex was never paid by receiving the funds from your bank to theirs.

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About the author

Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.

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